Tag Archives: Piping Plovers

EXCITING NEWS FOR OUR GOOD HARBOR BEACH PLOVER FANS!

Late yesterday afternoon, our Piping Plover volunteer monitor Heather Hall identified a new addition to the three Piping Plovers currently residing at Good Harbor Beach. She observed that he was super hungry and that he was wearing not one, but two identifying bands! The green band is located on his upper left leg and is etched in white with the letters ETM. On his upper right leg is a nondescript aluminum band most likely placed there by USFW.

The little guy was tagged on October 7th of this past year at Cumberland Island, Georgia, by the Virginia Tech Shorebird Program. He is a first hatch year, which means he is not quite yet a year old. ETM was spotted several more times at Cumberland Island indicating that he spent the winter there.

Cumberland Island is a barrier island and is the largest and most furthest south of the “Sea Islands” of the southeastern United States. You may have heard of Sea Island Cotton, a very luxurious type of cotton. The fibers of the cotton that are planted on the Sea Islands grow extra long. In spinning and weaving cotton, the longer the fibers, the smoother and more silky the cotton feels. The word long-staple is used to describe very fine cotton threads.Cumberland Island National Seashore sounds like a stunning and fascinating place to visit and I hope to do just that someday soon 🙂

To learn more about the Virginia Tech Shorebird Program:

The Virginia Tech Shorebird Program is a consortium of conservation biologists in the Virginia Tech Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. Although our biologists have a variety of interests, we share a common goal of conservation of coastal wildlife resources through transformational research. We work closely with managers and stakeholders to provide research that is timely and pertinent to management. The VT Shorebird Program began in 1985 with a study of piping plovers on the coasts of Virginia and Maryland. Since that time, our biologists have worked up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, along the shores of prairie rivers and lakes, and internationally in the Bahamas, Canada, and China, promoting the conservation of seabirds and shorebirds through research. We have worked with a variety of species, including piping plovers, least terns, snowy plovers, killdeer, spotted sandpipers, red knots, common terns, gull-billed terns, roseate terns, and black skimmers in an effort to conserve our coastlines and the animals that depend on it. Read More Here

And here’s more from Audubon –

Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. It is also one of the oldest barrier islands in Georgia, with rich soils capable of supporting a diversity of plants. It is bordered by the Cumberland River, Cumberland Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean. Three main natural communities are found on the island: extensive salt marshes on the western side comprise almost 17,000 acres; an ancient, mid-island maritime forest of live oak, pine, cedar and saw palmetto covers 15,100 acres; and a narrow strip of dune/beach stretches along the Atlantic Ocean side of the island. Parts of the island have regenerated from use as plantations, when clear-cutting for sea island cotton farming and timber harvests for ship building were profitable. It has several noteworthy features, including 50 miles of shoreline, freshwater marshes and ponds, high bluffs, interdune meadows, tidal mudflats and creeks, and a large, freshwater lake. It is accessible only by ferry, a concession arrangement with the national park service.

Ornithological Summary

As a United Nations-sanctioned International Biosphere Reserve, the wilderness on Cumberland Island protects many threatened and endangered species, including six species of migratory and shore birds and four species of sea turtles. It is clearly a place of global significance.

Cumberland Island is a major stopping point on the transatlantic migratory flyway, with over 335 species of birds recorded. Threatened and endangered species include Least Tern, Wilson’s Plover, and American Oystercatcher. The southernmost point of the island, known as Pelican Banks, is a favorite place for Black Skimmers, oystercatchers, pelicans, and numerous ducks and shore birds. The fresh water ponds provide excellent rookeries for Wood storks, white ibis, herons and egrets. In the forest canopy, warblers, buntings, wrens and woodpeckers abound. On the shores, osprey, peregrine falcons, and the occasional Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle can be seen. CI is a breeding site for endangered/threatened/high priority species such as Wood Stork, GAEA, Least Tern, Painted Bunting. Extensive, regular use by migrants and winter residents (warblers, shorebirds, PE, FA). The habitat is largely undisturbed and the island is one of GA’s largest. Area attracts several rare/accidental species (LBCU, GLGU, WEK). Northern edge for some species (i.e., WIPE winters) = seasonal use and range. Contains steadily increasing population of TUTI (uncommon to rare on many barrier islands). AMWP (winter and a few summer), REEG, etc.

Black Rail, Piping Plover, Saltmarsh sharp-tail Sparrow, Nelson’s sharp-tail Sparrow, Painted Bunting, Cerulean Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, Red-cockcaded Woodpecker (Source: Shelia Willis checklist) Read More Here

WHERE DO PIPING PLOVERS GO IN BAD WEATHER?

A question often asked is “where do the birds go when the weather is inclement?”

The answer depends on what type of bird. Some birds, like perching birds, have it a bit easier than seabirds and shorebirds because their little toes reflexively cling tightly to a branch or limb. But many, many birds lose their lives in hurricanes and super storms.

Extreme weather events are especially harmful to threatened and endangered shorebirds. Wave action, high winds, and storm surges destroys coastal habitats and flooding decreases water salinity. Birds, especially young birds, are blown far off course away from their home habitats. A great deal of energy is expended battling the winds and trying to return home.

In the case of Piping Plovers, for the most part, business continues as usual during average inclement weather. You won’t see them sit in a tree or dune shrub because they will lose their primary advantage against predators, that of the safety afforded them by the camouflage of their sandy beach coloring.

Piping Plovers and Dunlin taking shelter behind the landmark rock at Good Harbor

Perhaps they’ll find a rock on the beach, or ridge in the sand, to crouch behind and out of the path of the wind. Piping Plovers are much harder to find in inclement weather because their feathers mirror shades of rain and snow and fog. Drenching rain, spring snow squalls, and biting summer sand storms won’t stop these indefatigable creatures, we see them foraging during every kind of weather event.

Even Piping Plover chicks, weighing not much more than nickel, have the ability to withstand harsh summer sandstorms.

Nearly freezing and made worse by whipping wind.

NOT ONE, NOT TWO, BUT THREE PIPING PLOVERS TODAY AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Throughout the day, a threesome has been actively feeding, battling for territory, and two of the three, displaying courtship behavior.

Often times I have read that Piping Plovers in Massachusetts do not begin to actively court until mid-April. That simply has not been the case with our Good Harbor Beach pair. As soon as they arrive to their northern breeding grounds, they don’t waste any time and get right down to the business of reproducing! Last year, the PiPls were courting within a week of arriving, and this year, on the first day.

I only had brief periods of time to visit the beach this morning, but within that window, FOUR separate times the male built a little scrape, called Mama over to come investigate, while adding bits of dried seaweed and sticks, and fanning his tail feathers.

Papa scraping a nest in the sand.

Fanning his tail and inviting Mama to come inspect the nest scrape.

Tossing sticks and beach debris into the scrape.

Papa high-stepping for Mama.

It was VERY cold and windy both times I stopped by GHB and the PiPls were equally as interested in snuggling down behind a clump of dried beach grass as they were in courting.

Mama and Papa finding shelter from the cold and wind in the wrack line.

Good Harbor Beach was blessedly quiet all day. Our awesome dog officer Teagan Dolan was at the beach bright and early and there wasn’t a single dog in sight, I think greatly due to his vigilance and presence educating beach goers this past week.

Heather Hall, Katharine Parsons, Alicia Pensarosa, Laurie Sawin

Saturday we had the pleasure of meeting Katharine Parsons, Director of the Mass Audubon Coastal Waterbird Program. She gave an outstanding program to a crowd of Piping Plover advocates and interested parties, which was held at the Sawyer Free Library. Katharine covered everything from life cycle, management strategies and tools, habitat conservation, and the fantastic role Massachusetts is playing in the recovery of Piping Plovers, Least Terns, Roseate Terns, and Oystercatchers. We are so appreciative of Alicia Pensarosa and Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee for sponsoring Katharine!

Ward One City Councilor Scott Memhard and Katharine

City Council President Paul Lundberg, Katharine, and Alicia

Fun Fact we learned from Katharine’s presentation–a Piping Plover chick weighs six grams at birth. In comparison, and after consulting Google, a US nickel weighs a close 5.5 grams.

AWESOME MORNING INSTALLING PIPL FENCING AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH WITH GREENBELT’S DAVE RIMMER, DAVE MCKINNON, MIKE, DPW’S JOE LUCIDO, VOLUNTEER MARY, DOG OFFICER TEAGAN DOLAN, GLOUCESTER’S CONSERVATION AGENT, AND ADORABLE RAINBOW GIRL FREYA!

I checked on the PiPls early this morning, or more accurately should write, one Piping Plover. We haven’t seen the second PiPl since Monday afternoon. The beach was quiet, with only two dogs, and they were both on leash. Officer Teagan was also present, walking the length of the beach and keeping an eye out on our singular PiPl.

Officer Teagan Dolan

Dave McKinnon

Mid-morning I returned and the beach was bustling with activity. Dave Rimmer and his crew, Dave McKinnon (the above photo is for Dave’s Mom!), and Mike were installing the symbolic fencing. Gloucester’s Conservation Agent was present as well as volunteer monitor Mary. The group was soon joined by Joe Lucido. Joe was there to check on the signs, which are a work in progress, and a DPW crew was present cleaning up all the winter trash that accumulates and blows into the marsh. Joe has been posting about the PiPls on the Gloucester Beaches facebook page and he mentioned the Plover posts get tons of likes!

Joe Lucido

Thank you to Mayor Sefatia and her administration, all our City Councilors, Joe Lucido and the entire DPW, Heather Hall and all our volunteers, Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer, Dave McKinnon, and Mike, Gloucester’s Conservation Agent, and everyone who is helping our Good Harbor Beach Piping Plovers get off to a great start!

High-stylin’ Freya, in her hand crocheted rainbow sweater and hat (with matching rainbow shoes), and her Mom were at GHB enjoying the sunshine.

Great foraging in the tide flats for our PiPl. Notice in the super copped photo, a tiny little shrimp!

SEVEN WAYS IN WHICH WE CAN ALL HELP THE PIPING PLOVERS RIGHT NOW!

1) Volunteer to be a Piping Plover monitor. Please contact Alicia Pensarosa at gloucesteraac@gmail.com. Heather Hall is currently working on a temporary schedule until one is provided by Alicia. Heather can be reached at gonesouth5@gmail.com.

2) Please let your friends know the PiPls have returned and please share this post.

3) If you have a dog, and I know this is a great deal to ask, please avoid Good Harbor Beach. There are many other great places that folks can walk their dog. Beginning April 1st, all dogs are prohibited from Good Harbor Beach at anytime of day or night, including early morning and after the life guards leave for the day.

4) If you feel you must bring your dog to GHB, please avoid the No. 3 boardwalk area (their preferred courting and nesting area) and please walk your dog along the shoreline.

5) Join our Facebook page Piping Plover Partners.

6) Come to the Piping Plover Ecology, Management, and Conservation program at the Sawyer Free Library this Saturday from 10am to 12pm. This program is sponsored by the City of Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee.

7) Please report anyone harassing the PiPls to the police at 978-283-1212 and any dog harassing the PiPls to Gloucester’s Animal Control officers Jamie and Teagan at 978-281-9746.

THANK YOU FOR ANY AND ALL HELP GIVEN!

TWO GOOD NEWS UPDATES:

A note from Mayor Sefatia – A thirty day waiting period after the new dog ordinance was passed was required prior to any new signs being installed. The thirty days has passed and we will be seeing the new signs shortly!

Dave Rimmer from Greenbelt will be installing the protective symbolic fencing tomorrow, Wednesday!

Look for the Papa doing a fancy goose step during courtship. This is our Good Harbor Beach Mama and Papa courting last spring.

Plover Dad brooding eggs.

A tell-tale signs of PiPls present are these sweet petite fleur de lis tracks in the sand.

A tiny chick, the fraction of the size of a child’s flip flop.

Essex Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer and assistant installing the wire exclosure last year after the PiPls were driven off the beach by dogs–we don’t ever want to see this happen again.

OUR PIPING PLOVERS HAVE ARRIVED AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

Our beautiful Piping Plovers have returned! Monday afternoon we observed them foraging at the shoreline, then chased up to the wrack line by a bounding off-leash dog. After the dog departed the area, the two PiPls dozed off in the drifts of sand and dry beach grass.

The pair look plump and vigorous, not nearly as weary looking as the PiPls that arrived last year on April 3rd, after the four March nor’easters.

Unbelievably, the male is already displaying courtship behavior! And even more amazingly so, he was doing it within mere feet of where they have nested for the past three years.

I know I sound like a broken record, but today was an on-leash day. There were at least a half a dozen dogs off-leash in the forty-five minutes Charlotte, Tom, and I were there. I purposefully bring Charlotte to the beach on on-leash days because of the out of control dogs. A forty to fifty pound off-leash Golden Retriever puppy came bounding up to Charlotte, while its owner stood back shouting he’ll slobber all over her. I was more concerned with the oversized pup knocking her over and used considerable force to hold the puppy back, while Tom scooped up Charlotte. Everyone I spoke with was not aware of the dog laws, old laws and the new laws, and the new 300.00 fines. All the ordinances on the books are not going to do a thing, unless they are enforced.

GLOUCESTER’S “PIPING PLOVER PLAN” REVIEWED BY KEN WHITTAKER AND MEET ADRIENNE LENNON, GLOUCESTER’S NEW CONSERVATION AGENT!

Tuesday evening at the City Council meeting, former Gloucester conservation agent Ken Whittaker reviewed the City’s 3PPlan (Piping Plover Plan) with the Councilors.

We Piping Plover volunteer monitors are grateful for the time and effort Ken has put forth in helping to protect our threatened Piping Plovers. We’re especially appreciative of the time he spent coordinating the volunteer monitors–not an easy task! We wish Ken all the best in his retirement.

Ken and PiPl Volunteer Monitors, Good Harbor Beach

Ken and Jim Destino introduced Adrienne Lennon, Gloucester’s new conservation agent. We had a few minutes after the introduction to speak with Adrienne. Her experience includes working for seven years at Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center, located in Ipswich on the Plum Island causeway, adjacent to the infamous Pink House. While there, Adrienne gained extensive knowledge in Piping Plover conservation. She is especially interested in preserving and protecting our beach dunes. Adrienne can be reached at alennon@gloucester-ma.gov.

Best of success to Adrienne in her new position as Gloucester’s Conservation Agent!

Photos of Ken and Adrienne at City Hall courtesy of City Council Vice President Steve LeBlanc

During Piping Plover nesting season, I have visited the public beach at the northern end of Plum Island, Newbury Beach. I believe the PiPl nesting areas at Newbury Beach are monitored by Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center. Newbury Beach is similar in several ways to Good Harbor Beach in that it is a popular town beach in a residential area with many access points and nearby hotels. Last year the beach and dunes were extremely hard hit by late winter storms, just as was Good Harbor Beach.

About Joppa Flats Education Center: Overlooking the Merrimack River and near the entrance to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, the Joppa Flats Education Center offers unique educational opportunities for people of all ages. Here, you can explore the region’s wildlife-rich habitats (salt marshes, mudflats, rivers, bays, and coastal waters) through guided tours, marine touch tanks, art exhibits, drop-in programs, and interpretive displays.

Scenes from behind the Joppa Flats Education Center and Plum Island causeway.

Councilors Steve LeBlanc and Melissa Cox wearing Piping Plover monitor hats provided by Ken Whittaker.

Coffins Beach and Wingaersheek Beach are going to be more closely monitored this year for Piping Plovers. The above photo is from 2016 when NINE chicks fledged at Coffins Beach!

Three-day-old Piping Plover Chick, Good Harbor Beach